It appears, at least as of Nov. 5 before the stove even has a chance to get past warm and into hot territory, that the Texas Rangers have settled on a starting catcher for 2014. And it's not the name most thought.
Geovany Soto, the club's backup last season, was signed Tuesday and named the starter by general manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington. Both said that Soto "is our guy" at catcher. But does that mean Brian McCann is off the table? No. Don't take the news of Soto as the primary catcher to mean the club won't go after McCann. Daniels wouldn't rule out the possibility of a high-priced player who could perhaps play catcher and some other spots -- like DH or first base.
"We had a player that the more we talked about it, the more we liked what he brings to the table," Daniels said. "You don’t want to ignore what’s under your nose or put all your eggs in one basket from someone outside that you can’t control. But we haven’t ruled anything out."
McCann was the name most figured would be the Rangers' top target and this move doesn't have to change that. (And we'll explain why McCann still makes sense for this team in our "Hot Stove Talk" post Wednesday morning). But Soto gives them some options and an insurance policy of sorts. They like the fact that he improved offensively in the second half of the season and that he knows the pitching staff.He's worked well with Yu Darvish, the club's top pitcher. The price isn't bad, either, at $3.05 million plus incentives. And if they find someone on the market whom they'd like to try more at first base or DH, but also a bit at catcher, it means Soto carries more of the load. By the way, McCann can be that guy too. If you're making a 5-year investment at something like $75 million, why not guard against wear and tear and have him play some first base or DH? Soto gives the Rangers the option of choosing whether to spend a big piece of their financial pie on catcher or using that money elsewhere to plug other holes.
Soto was clearly excited about the opportunity.
"I mentally know these guys and what works for them in crunch time and what doesn't," Soto said. "You can know this guy has a slider or the other guy has a fastball, but when do you throw it? When does he have confidence in it? I think I have an ability to mentally get pitchers ready. I feel like I can make them give that extra bit."
He added that he thinks that will only "blossom" now that he's the primary catcher. Soto is pleased with his improvements with the bat, crediting hitting coach Dave Magadan for helping him.
"To be honest, where I fell off in my career, I stopped hitting because I was trying too hard or searching too much," Soto said. "Every time I made an adjustment, I made a change four days later because it wasn't working. Dave told me to stop searching. Sometimes you want to do more. But if I'm guilty, I'm gulity of trying to fix whatever was wrong really badly instead of taking a step back and keeping it simple.